By Kathy Klein
Early Childhood Education Director
In the Early Childhood Department at the Shaw JCC, we have been working to create a culture of empowerment. As engaged educators, we realize that from the time they are infants, children observe the adults in their lives and mimic their behaviors. The Talmud teaches that “When you teach your son, you teach your son’s son.” We focus on creating an environment where children practice making meaningful decisions throughout the day– selecting learning centers at which to work and collaborating with peers and teachers in determining the direction their learning will take. We believe in scaffolding students to the next level of development by providing experiential learning that challenges them to reflect, to assess, and to develop a sense of connectedness, both physically and emotionally, to the world around them.
This school year, we have focused on one Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) project each month that children can successfully accomplish. Since school began, the children have participated in the Walk for Alzheimer’s on the campus of the University of Akron, painted large canvas panels to enhance the Shaw JCC’s senior adult sukkah at Sukkot, baked a variety of delicious treats which they sold to purchase six pool tiles for the indoor pool renovation, and are currently collecting canned foods to help create the giant “Canorah” which will be on display through Chanukah at Summit Mall. (All the canned goods collected will be ultimately be donated to local food banks to help feed the hungry during the holiday season.)
As civil rights icon Rosa Parks once said, “We teach them (young people) to be good citizens and do what they can to help other people as they become successful themselves. I urge children to have a spiritual awareness in their lives. If children work towards a positive goal in life, it will help them become successful when they become adults.”
The Early Childhood Education department will also be hosting a county-wide in-service for teachers in conjunction with the Summit Developmental Disabilities Board called “Inspire: Transform your classroom into an All Inclusive room with Summit DD.” As a community agency which is open to all, this workshop is especially meaningful to those of us on the ECE staff.
We have also focused on increased parent involvement and input for our program. Our Curriculum Night in October was well-attended, and from it, we received 25 new parent volunteers for the Parent Committee. And while our traditional family activities such as Messy Night and our Chanukah Pancake Breakfast, parents and other significant adults have also volunteered as “Mystery Readers” in the 3, 4, and pre-K classrooms. After selecting a book at home with their child, they model reading for each class at the start of school once a week at the start of the school day.
We have also created “Our Morning Out” –programming designed for the stay-at-home two-year old and a caregiver. These classes meet once a week and include literacy-related activities, art, and gym respectively. Beginning in January, “You, Me, and the Imaginary Zoo,” “Art Antics,” and “Creative Crawlers,” will help brighten up those dreary winter mornings when the four walls of our houses seem to be closing in! We have also expanded the special interest afternoon programming for the students currently enrolled in our program either part-time or fulltime.
One of our most innovative programs is the Transitional Kindergarten class we created this year in partnership with The Lippman School. Transitional Kindergarten is a wonderful option for the student who may not be quite ready for kindergarten, but is looking for something more than a repetition of the pre-K experience. Our TK Program is designed to scaffold the student to the next level of academic and social-emotional growth in a warm and nurturing environment. A few select spaces remain in our 2, 4, and TK classrooms.
If you have any questions, please contact Kathy Klein or Terry Hamilton in the Early Childhood Education department at 330-867-7850.